Governor calls special session to address flooding, snow removal and amendments to a gun law
Gov. Spencer Cox is calling the Utah Legislature into a special session on May 17, his office announced.
In a proclamation issued late Friday afternoon, the governor laid out three items requiring “immediate” legislative action, the first being to ask lawmakers to extend a state of emergency “to address flooding in Utah communities” and the “risks of flooding, landslides, mudslides and other impacts from this winter’s record-breaking snowmelt.”
The record winter left the state with an unprecedented snowpack — Alta Ski Resort reported over 900 inches of snow — and as temperatures rise, so does the risk of flooding, landslides and avalanches.
Cox is also asking lawmakers to reallocate funds “to address the costs of snow removal, flooding, flood response and mitigation.”
Under a change to state law made during the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency orders issued by the governor can last no longer than 30 days, and legislators must be notified within 10 days of expiration if an extension is needed.
Legislative leaders received that notification early Friday, the state Senate’s chief of staff, Mark Thomas said. Thomas said the flooding emergency could be extended during the special session until mid-August, and again after that if necessary.
“I think it’s pretty clear and obvious that we’re in the thick of it with flooding, and everyone agreed that we ought to move forward,” Thomas said. He said he hasn’t yet heard how much money will be needed by the Utah Department of Transportation and other agencies.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said in a statement that he’s looking forward to the special session as an opportunity “to plan and prepare for the needs of our state” as the weather changes.
“As temperatures continue to warm, we must prepare for increased flooding. Extending the current state of emergency will allow sufficient time for the reaction, repair and restoration phases that will need to occur on both the state and local levels due to this historic flooding,” the speaker said.
A similar special session was called last year to extend Cox’s emergency order for the drought.
The last item in Friday’s proclamation asks lawmakers to consider amendments to HB225, a law sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, that deals with firearm possession.
The bill requires agencies to run a background check when returning a gun that was used as evidence and directs a court to report that information to Criminal Investigations Technical Services Division “to provide the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator in certain circumstances,” according to the bill’s text.
It amends the state’s definition of a “restricted person” and requires that law enforcement are alerted when a restricted person attempts to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer.
Lastly, it classifies someone in the state on a nonimmigrant visa as a restricted person.
Thomas said the issue with HB225 is related to provision preventing someone in the country on a nonimmigrant work visa from possessing or owning a firearm that was thought to be part of federal law.
That’s not the case, so lawmakers will look at removing the provision, he said.